Young locals fulfill dreams in rock band
March 3, 2011 at midnight
Updated March 4, 2011 at 9:05 p.m.
At the age of 17, Michael Petrash is a grandpa.
At least that's the St. Joseph High School senior's self-proclaimed role as the oldest member of the local rock band 24-7.
On a Thursday night in a quiet country neighborhood, the five-member, 11- to 17-year-old band could be found by following the sound of raging guitars up the stairs of Mario Vallejo's home.
"They're having a lot of fun with it," said Mario Vallejo, the band's manager and father of two band members. "Everything's positive. If they're going to do this, it's going to be a positive thing."
In the upstairs room set off by a beaded curtain and stuffed corner-to-corner with music equipment, Vallejo wore a pair of earplugs while the boys plucked and banged out new beats they hope to soon take to the studio.
Along with Michael, there's Mario Vallejo's sons, 11-year-old Matthew, the drummer and resident jokester of the group; his brother Nicholas, 14, voted the glue that keeps the band on track; then there's the lead singer and Vallejo cousin Josh Moya, a 16-year-old who just nodded and grinned when being termed the group's diva; and finally, Tyler Tatom - 17 and like the band's "adopted brother" they for some reason call Pedro.
Together, they make up the band 24-7, and together, the youngsters can bust out an ear-catching tune by any standards.
"Musically, these guys are way ahead of their ages," Vallejo said.
It was a talent Vallejo said he noticed when his sons were charged with performing at their grandfather's Christmas parties when they were just 3 and 5.
"We did that for a lot of years, and we were nervous for that," Nicholas remembered.
After excelling in the Austin School of Music, the Vallejo brothers teamed up with the rest of their crew, each of whom took his own path to music.
"We grew up with the music lifestyle all around us. I was playing the violin before bass," Michael said.
Tyler, on the other hand, was comparatively a late-comer to the game and said he's grateful to Vallejo for finding him guitar lessons.
"The whole reason I started playing guitar was because of these boys here," Tyler said.
Despite different schools, different friends, different busy schedules and a gaping age difference especially by teenage measures, each member of 24-7 said his favorite part of being in the band is just being able to play music with friends.
That perk even beat out attention from girls.
"We're all little kids at heart," Tyler said.
"Music just kind of unites us," Nicholas added.
And any sort of inhibition the boys may have initially had is an old tune compared to where they are now.
Besides local gigs, the band has played in several venues in Austin and even at the House of Blues in Houston.
"(The best part was) a lot of big bands played there before us," Josh said.
And soon, 24-7 would make a rocking attempt at what every big band needs: an original music video.
In an Austin alleyway, with impromptu props, the band recently recorded a video to their song, "Never Stop."
The professional video that captures the group's anything-but-camera-shy swagger has more than 50,500 views on YouTube.
Currently, the band is working on creating more original tunes after being picked up by an artist representative who's shopping labels, Vallejo said.
"It's all talk right now. Nothing's etched in stone," Vallejo said. "There's interest now. They want to hear some more original material."
With the future unknown, band members stay busy putting just as much effort into their schoolwork and extracurricular activities as they do the music, Vallejo said.
"To me, music's a gift . Music has helped my boys in school, just the discipline of it," Vallejo said. "They're all very busy. These are all bright kids."
The band members are also making the most out of their time together, knowing they'll have to fill Michael's bass-playing role when he heads off to the United States Military Academy at West Point after graduation.
"Michael's a big part of the band. He'll always be a big part of the band," Vallejo said.
But even though big band stardom is on their radar, the boys said they were taught the importance of pursuing education.
"It's school first, and this is our reward," Josh said.
While constantly strumming their guitars or tapping their feet to an internal tune, the boys said at the very least, the experience of being in 24-7 has simply been fun.
"Music is going to be a big part of our lives, even if we don't become a big band," Matthew said.
With that, the band got back into position and played one more song before packing up to do homework.
It was "Never Stop."
"I'll never know if I never try; I'm living life too young to die," the chorus goes. "I'll never stop though it sometimes seems; I'll never stop 'til I reach my dream."